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An O-1A visa is an option for top-tier science and tech workers

Some people who have job offers from U.S. employers in science, education, business or athletics can qualify for an O-1A visa for people with “extraordinary ability or achievement” in their field. O-1B visas are similar but apply to people in the arts, television or motion pictures.

If you qualify for an O-1A visa, you can bring your spouse and dependent children to the U.S. while you are here. They will get O-3 visas, which allow them to study in the U.S., either full-time or part-time, but not to work.

O-1A and O-3 visas are non-immigrant visas. That means that they do not lead to a green card or U.S. citizenship and end after a specific period of time. In the case of this visa, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will determine how long your visa will last, but it will be up to three years. You may apply for renewals in one-year increments.

What does ‘extraordinary ability or achievement’ mean?

For an O-1A visa, you must demonstrate that you have received sustained national or international acclaim for your work. In science, education, business or athletics, you should present evidence that you are among a small percentage of people who have risen to the very top of the field.

How do I apply?

It will be your employer who submits a petition (Form I-129, Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker) on your behalf. This should be filed between 45 days and a year before your job would begin.

Along with Form I-129, your employer will need to submit a written advisory opinion from someone who has expertise in your field, along with a contract, your itinerary, and at least three types of documentation supporting your eligibility for an O-1A visa. Your immigration attorney can assist your employer in building a convincing case for your eligibility.

Once Form I-129 and the accompanying documents have been approved by the USCIS, you then apply for the visa itself through your local U.S. embassy or consulate.

Can I change employers?

If you need to change employers once you are in the U.S., you will first need to get a job offer from a new employer. That employer can then file a new or amended Form I-129 and supporting evidence, along with any necessary request for an extension of your stay.

A new or amended I-129 also needs to be filed if there is a material change in the terms and conditions of your employment, even if you don’t change employers.

Talk to an immigration attorney

Showing you have extraordinary ability or achievement in tech or the sciences can be challenging, so it’s important to work with an experienced immigration attorney. Yew Immigration Law Group has years of experience helping people live and work in the U.S.